'The whole world loves metal, they just don’t know it yet': In conversation with Bloodywood
Bloodywood is what you get when you put Punjabi folk music and sick beats together.
The year is 2016. Coronavirus is nowhere in sight. Bollywood is just starting to rip off its own music. It's not ideal — that is, until Bloodywood gets on the scene.
From the ‘metalification’ of classics like 'Ek Pal Ka Jeena' to tinkering with viral hits like 'PPAP', the band has been destroying pop music and how. The brainchild of Karan Katiyar and Jayant Bhadula, Bloodywood is what you get when you put Punjabi folk music and sick beats together in a bubble of harmony.
On speaking to Raoul Kerr, the rap vocalist of the group, he immediately admits that metal can initially come off as intimidating. A newcomer (of sorts) to the genre himself, he never realised the pure and intense vibe of the metal community as a whole until getting on stage and living it.
Given the aggressive nature of the vocals and the general myths of Satanism surrounding the genre, you would be surprised to learn that metal's roots can be traced back to the 1950s blues. In tandem with the band’s vision for their music to move minds and hearts, the genre begs a reconsideration.
So what better lens to approach it from than Bloodywood?
For the uninitiated: what makes metal music, and more importantly, who is Bloodywood? An amalgamation of heavily distorted guitar riffs and the flute (Karan Katiyar), growls (Jayant), rap vocals (Raoul Kerr), powerful drumming (Vishesh Singh), extra low-range bass notes (Roshan Roy), and of course, the dhol (Sarthak Pahwa) that gives them their iconic Punjabi folk sound - all under a mighty sound engineer’s umbrella (Sahil Sharma).
What separates this Delhi-based band from their contemporaries is perhaps their effortless knack for profound lyrics, combined with a drive to ensure it comes to fruition. It’s not just about creating music that touches people, but also about ensuring that the music transcends to something much more real.
A notable example of the same is 'Jee Veerey', a song about conquering mental health. While the music itself is a cathartic experience, the band went one step further and purchased 60 counselling sessions for their viewers.
“For us, the power of music was demonstrated in that song, it was insane for us to be able to create that. It was special because we bought 60 online counselling sessions, mentioned in the video’s description. After that, other people bought sessions for more people to get help, and it was amazing,” says Raoul.
Tracks like ‘Yaad’, which highlighted the relationship between a human and their pet, also had their funds used to purchase an ambulance for The Posh Foundation, a dog shelter. The band seems to have a true understanding of music’s psychological impact.
The extent of their international fanbase is perhaps best represented through their successful Patreon model. A platform that allows their fans to contribute while enjoying premium access to Bloodywood’s music is not as common to indie musicians in India. This becomes all the more relevant given that live shows or any prospect of the same have vanished in the COVID-19 era.
That’s probably another fascinating aspect of the band: their love for the audience. The true embodiment of “feeding off the audiences’ energy” has successfully carried these boys all the way from Delhi to Germany.
Raoul recalls, “Our first show was a festival, Dong Open Air in Germany. There were a few thousand people in the tent, these people have seen nothing of our live shows. For them to chant 'Bloodywood' with zero context, the commonality between our home turf in Delhi and Germany was something much bigger than expected. It was our first-ever festival, first-ever gig, first-ever everything, so feeling the same familial support there, guiding us and taking us the right way was something else.”
For a band with no live performances to its credit to have scored a gig at the metal community’s biggest festival — Wacken Open Air, Germany — is perhaps the biggest feather in their proverbial hats.
And that was all it took to birth the most pumped up documentary you’ll ever witness: Bloodywood’s Raj Against The Machine.
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Loud. Brash. Meaningless. These are just some of the stereotypes that Bloodywood smashed along the way while making their mark in the metal community. For the uninitiated, what makes metal music, and more importantly - who is Bloodywood? An amalgamation of heavily distorted guitar riffs and the flute (Karan Katiyar), growls (Jayant), rap vocals (Raoul Kerr), powerful drumming (Vishesh Singh), extra low-range bass notes (Roshan Roy), and of course, the dhol (Sarthak Pahwa) that gives them their iconic Punjabi folk sound - all under a mighty sound engineer’s umbrella (Sahil Sharma). With their documentary 'Raj Against The Machine' currently all the rage online, the Punjabi metal fusion band is the perfect gateway for all yet to be metalheads. Join Raoul and Jayant as they bust a few myths on the metal genre and give us an extra behind the 'behind the scenes' take from their European tour! Documentary footage from Raj Against The Machine. Video clip credit: YouTube / Rammstein Official, YouTube / serjtankian, YouTube / Bloodywood @raoul.kerr - @karankatiyar.in - @jayant_bhadula - @sarthak.pahwa - @roshanroyuem - @sahiltct - @drummingfuckedup - @calhoenahoe #bloodywood #metal #metalhead #metalcommunity #dongopenair #wackenopenair #bollywood #punjabi #punjabifusion #punjabifusionmetal #metalbands #metalmyths #metalmythbusters #mythbusters #music #entertainment #musical #europeantour #rajagainstthemachine
When asked if the experience was overwhelming at all, it’s the gleam in their eyes that speaks volumes. The band at that point consisted just Karan, Jayant and Raoul — they had zero experience playing as a band.
“We jammed for at least 5-6 hours every day for two months at a go, with little to no breaks. I suppose the main thought behind it was it took 20 hours of practise per song to do it well — a derivative of the 10,000 hours to perfect something philosophy,” says Raoul.
The documentary stands as a colourful and melodious tribute to how far the band has come. From technical glitches to full-on hurricanes, this is a story of how if you have the mettle for it (pun intended), music will definitely enable you to beat all odds.
For a crowd of foreigners with no knowledge of Indian, especially Punjabi music, to be lost in a trance of sorts as they mosh to hits like ‘Aari Aari’, ‘Machi Bhasad’, and more is special. It is a chance to fully realise diversity in all of its utopian theory, to bring people together across the globe in the most intimate form possible.
The band’s history is chock-full of anecdotes of their music being pivotal to their fans’ lives. From an ex-army mother pulled back from the brink of suicide to a couple getting engaged smack in the middle of their concert, they’ve been through it all. And it’s always worth it.
While the ever so omnipresent COVID-19 might have snuck its way into their emerging success, it’s far from dampened their spirits.
“We were supposed to head out on our debut US tour, headline a festival, and do a second, bigger, European tour. What was going to happen this year though, is just going to happen next year. This has become a year of creation. We will work remotely as much as possible before we can come together and record and create music," says Raoul.
Loud. Brash. Violent. Meaningless. Just some stereotypes these guys smashed along the way, proving that metal can be an extremely gratifying genre when given a chance.
The cathartic nature of extreme metal music, while often quickly misjudged, is simply a reflection of one’s own extreme emotions. So Bloodywood, and the massively underrated metal community as a whole, provides a great platform to experience the depths of all simmering emotions, and eventually let them go.
If Punjabi music is your jam — give this a shot. If the pandemic induced isolation is getting to you — give this a shot. If you’re looking for new kinds of music — give this a shot.
The reasons for dabbling in metal and Bloodywood are endless. Their passion proves it. And as Karan likes to say, “The whole world loves metal, they just don’t know it yet.”
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